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Conventional printing technology
All printing process are concerned with two kinds of areas on the final output:
Image Area (printing areas)
Non-image Area (non-printing areas)
After the information has been prepared for production (the prepress step), each printing process has definitive means of separating the image from the non-image areas.
Conventional printing has four types of process:
Planographics, in which the printing and non-printing areas are on the same plane surface and the difference between them is maintained chemically or by physical properties, the examples are: offset lithography, collotype, and screenless printing.
Relief, in which the printing areas are on a plane surface and the non printing areas are below the surface, examples: flexography and letterpress.
Intaglio, in which the non-printing areas are on a plane surface and the printing area are etched or engraved below the surface, examples: steel die engraving, gravure Porous, in which the printing areas are on fine mesh screens through which ink can penetrate, and the non-printing areas are a stencil over the screen to block the flow of ink in those areas, examples: screen printing, stencil duplicator.
Letterpress printing is a technique of relief printing. A worker composes and locks movable type into the bed of a press, inks it, and presses paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper.
Letterpress printing was the normal form of printing text from its invention by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century and remained in wide use for books and other uses until the second half of the 20th century, when offset printing was developed. More recently, letterpress printing has seen a revival in an artisanal form.
Offset printing is a widely used printing technique. Offset printing is where the inked image is transferred (or "offset") from a plate to a rubber blanket. An offset transfer moves the image to the printing surface. When used in combination with the lithographic process, a process based on the repulsion of oil and water; the offset technique employs a flat (planographic) image carrier. So, the image to be printed obtains ink from ink rollers, while the non-printing area attracts a film of water, keeping the non-printing areas ink-free. Currently, most books and newspapers are printed using the technique of offset lithography.
Gravure printing is an intaglio printing technique, where the image being printed is made up of small depressions in the surface of the printing plate. The cells are filled with ink, and the excess is scraped off the surface with a doctor blade. Then a rubber-covered roller presses paper onto the surface of the plate and into contact with the ink in the cells. The printing cylinders are usually made from copper plated steel, which is subsequently chromed, and may be produced by diamond engraving; etching, or laser ablation.
Gravure printing is used for long, high-quality print runs such as magazines, mail-order catalogues, packaging and printing onto fabric and wallpaper. It is also used for printing postage stamps and decorative plastic laminates, such as kitchen worktops.
Other printing techniques
The other significant printing techniques include:
- Flexography, used for packaging, labels, newspapers
- Dye-sublimation printer
- Inkjet, used typically to print a small number of books or packaging, and also to print a variety of materials: from high quality papers simulating offset printing, to floor tiles. Inkjet is also used to apply mailing addresses to direct mail pieces
- cLaser printing (toner printing) mainly used in offices and for transactional printing (bills, bank documents). Laser printing is commonly used by direct mail companies to create variable data letters or coupons.
- Pad printing, popular for its unusual ability to print on complex three-dimensional surfaces
- Relief print, mainly used for catalogues
- Screen-printing for a variety of applications ranging from T-shirts to floor tiles, and on uneven surfaces
- Intaglio, used mainly for high value documents such as currencies.
- Thermal printing, popular in the 1990s for fax printing. Used today for printing labels such as airline baggage tags and individual price labels in supermarket deli counters.
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